Yorick’s Procrastination

In volume 2 of Sterne’s Sentimental Journey (1768), Parson Yorick sits down to breakfast in Paris. La Fleur has given him a fresh block of butter wrapped in paper. About to discard the paper, Yorick finds that it seems to be part of a literary manuscript. He sits down by the window to study the text. The paper is dirty, the hand is gothic, the language is Old French, and the writing is faded. He is very intrigued but has a great deal of trouble trying to understand it.

it cost me infinite trouble to make any thing of it—I threw it down; and then wrote a letter to Eugenius—then I took it up again, and embroiled my patience with it afresh—and then to cure that, I wrote a letter to Eliza.—Still it kept hold of me; and the difficulty of understanding it increased but the desire.

(The Fragment. Paris)

For Yorick, the answer is a bottle of Burgundy, which enables him to translate the text because it ‘enlightened his mind’.

Sterne’s words, not mine.